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DIY Social Isolation from a Cancer “Survivor”

by Hanna MadsenSurvivor, Adenoid Cystic CarcinomaApril 21, 2020View more posts from Hanna Madsen

DIY Social Isolation from a Cancer “Survivor”*. For those unaware, DIY stands for Do it yourself!

Accept the new normal.
This is your new normal. Focus on what is physically, emotionally, and socially possible. Relinquish what is impossible and does not serve you. Do not look back.

Breathe like a yogi.
Find a point on the wall ahead of you. Stare at it and breathe in. Push the air below your belly button into the bottom of your stomach. Release the air. Additional points if you think about what is bothering when you inhale and then release it when you exhale.

This is not hipster shenanigans. I promise. When I was choking to death, I used this breathe technique to remain calm and cough up the dried blood blocking my lungs. I’ve also used it when medical staff were stabbing me with needles for (probably?) legitimate reasons. And for balancing in yoga positions.

Channel your inner duck.
Keep pushing those little webbed feet. Every. Day. Resist complacency. Shower. Clean your space. Do your laundry. Email your mom. Do that puzzle. Read that book. Knit that sock. Build that shelf. Bake those brownies with Oreos stuffed inside. Watch all ten seasons plus holidays specials of the Great British Bakeoff. And then bask in your small wins of the day.

Surround yourself with nature.
Plant an avocado, a pineapple, or an apple core and watch it grow. Place plants in places where you look at them every day. And if you are allowed to do so, go the f*ck outside. Yes, even if it is cold. Or raining. Nature heals.

Avocado see

Avocado seed

Avocado Plants Now

Avocado Plants Now

Learn something online.
Pick something new to learn and use the internet to learn about it. Extra points if it is a skill that will be useful to you in the future.

Exercise. And eat good things.
Youtube HIIT, cardio, yoga, pilates, dance, or whatever workouts. If you can, bike or walk or run outside. Eat your greens, your fruits, and your protein. You need your strength.

Message the humans.
Message other humans daily. Contact the people who love you. And people who can understand/relate to what is happening to you specifically. And people who push you. Challenge them to an online game. Watch the same show on Netflix. Host a virtual coffee hour. Skype them. Whatsapp them. Text them.

Question reality.
Stay knowledgeable about what is happening to you and why. Do not stop at “I don’t know.” Question the experts. Consult reputable resources. And then prepare for different situations that could happen. No one cares about you more than you.

Please comment/write back with your own tips!

*Cancer is not a monolithic experience and cancer “survivors” are not a monolithic group. Tips may not reflect the experiences of other cancer “survivors”. “Survivor(s)” will remain in quotes because it paints over the experiences of those living with incurable cancers and implies that those who’ve died of cancer as those who “lost”. Cancer happens – it is neither won or lost.*

DIY Social Isolation from a Cancer “Survivor”

All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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